Beginning July 1, accreditation by the Joint Commission will begin to include specific requirements related to diagnostic imaging on such equipment as CT scanners and MRIs.

The imaging requirements are grouped into three broad areas: ensuring that equipment functions properly and there is a safe environment of care, that there are qualified staff performing the imaging exams, and that there are processes in place to ensure safety and efficiency, says Joyce Webb, project director in the division of health care quality evaluation at the Joint Commission.

The changes most likely will affect hospitals in terms of documentation, says Jason Launders, medical physicist and director of operations in the health devices group at ECRI. “Most of these things, hospitals probably already do,” Launders says. The issue here is in asking for documentation that they do it. “How do you prove to the Joint Commission surveyor that you do these things?”

Prior to a few years ago, there was not as much demand for the dosage and cumulative radiation exposure data that there is now, so data availability was limited.

Launders says the gaps are being filled by companies that gather and summarize the needed diagnostic imaging data from the various types and brands found in a hospital.

“It’s created almost a new industry because there’s never been a tool able to aggregate the patient data,” says Dominic Siewko, director of clinical dose management at DoseWise, an offering from Philips Healthcare that performs that service. Almost all the imaging equipment manufacturers offer a service, Siewko says.

Only a year ago, just 30 percent of providers had hired a dose-monitoring company, though that number was expected to grow sharply, according to a report from Klas Research.

The requirements, which include standards related to performance checks of imaging equipment and evaluation by a medical physicist, will be applied out of the gate on July 1, Webb says. Qualification provisions were added for medical physicists, and will be for CT technologists, she says.